Most people will see the final score of this afternoon’s victory for the Starpoint Spartans and assume that the Amherst Tigers didn’t stand a chance. In fact, as Starpoint Head Coach Al Cavagnaro put it, “(Amherst) came in hungry. We didn’t. We looked past this game thinking it would be easy, but it was not.” Touchdowns from Justin Mott, Austin Meenaghan and Tajay Ahmed (2) were the deciding factor in Saturday’s Class A matchup between defending Class A North Starpoint and the Amherst Tigers. The final score was Starpoint 27, Amherst 9.
The game began as a low scoring affair, a series of 3 and outs took place for both squads, as the Tigers and Spartans both looked to the ground to generate offense. The first TD came with just 11 seconds left in quarter one, as Starpoint’s Justin Mott carried the ball 4 yards into the endzone. The extra point kick was good, putting the reigning Class A North champs up 7-0.
After the Tigers had a 28 yard run from Amane Daniels, they couldn’t get any more offense from the Starpoint 44. Brian Fulford dropped a perfectly placed punt that gets touched at the Starpoint 3 yard line. Two plays later, Spartan running back Tajay Ahmed was tackled in his own end zone by a group of Tigers, and Amherst was on the board.
7-2 Starpoint was the score heading into the second quarter as the stars started to shine. Halfway through the second, Amherst’s sophomore QB Ja’kye Womack led his receiver Jordan Barr for 57 yards, down at the Starpoint 35 yard line. On the play, Spartans’ Logan Yoder made the tackle and got injured in the process. He was taken off the field on a stretcher with an upper body injury, but left the game with a thumbs up to the crowd.
With 6:03 left in quarter two, Womack fumbled the football deep in opposing territory, recovered by Ahmed for the Spartans, who brought it out to the 42. Nothing came out of that drive besides two incomplete passes and a run for less than 2 yards.
Coming out of halftime, Amherst was moving down the field with Marcel Walker running for 45 yards to get into Spartan territory. No later than a few plays thereafter, and Walker fumbles the ball allowing Ahmed to scoop it up and run to the 35. A string of passes from Aaron Chase to Voss, Robinson and Brooks leads to a 16 yard TD pass to Austin Meenaghan. Dan Sgroi’s kick is good and the Spartans lead by a score of 14-2 with 8:04 left in the third.
A quick four plays for both sides and the Tigers had the ball back. With 2:40 on the clock in the third quarter, Womack lobbed a tight spiral into the air, falling perfectly into the hands of junior WR Brandon Fowler, who took it 63 yards to the end zone. With Brian Fulford kicking home the extra point, the game was now 14-9.
On the very next drive, Starpoint couldn’t rebound after giving up that long touchdown, as they went three and out, or so they thought. On the punt, Amherst’s Marcel Walker fumbles the ball, allowing Kyle Schreader of Starpoint to recover it at the Tiger 33 yard line. The defense, though, came up large for the hosts, stopping the Spartans chance to grow upon their lead.
Amherst’s offense returned onto the field but a short 3 plays led to a punt where Spartan RB Terry Rutland returned it for 50 yards, down to the 4 yard line. Tajay Ahmed would then punch it in, with an extra point kick blocked, bringing the visitor’s lead to 20-9. Rutland comments on his punt return, saying that he “saw daylight. I turned on the jets and wanted to get into the endzone.”
Ahmed’s touchdown seemed to be the backbreaker of the Tigers as there was not much of a push thereafter from the offense. A final TD was tacked onto the board with just over 2:00 left in the game, on a 6 yard run from Ahmed, extending the lead to 27-9.
Amherst’s Head Coach Jason Beckman said that “the message going into today’s game was hard work, and believe in each other…Defensively, we were strong, but we can work on something on the offensive side of the ball.” Coach Beckman believes that his team played at an extremely high level against one of the best teams in the class. “We’ll go home, let it hurt for 24 hours, but then every single player, and myself, can all figure out something to improve upon for next week.”
The Amherst Tigers will head to Grand Island next week Friday at 7pm. The Starpoint Spartans, who move to 1-0 on the year, will have their home opener Saturday the 10th at 2pm vs Kenmore East.
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